Stag-geringly Good Show

Theater fans like to have it both ways. Sometimes it can be a small, bare-bones, black-box production with no frills to take away from the actor's work and the author's words. Other times it's the big expansive show filled with all the spectacle the stage can hold. Either choice can be a memorable experience. The Scottsdale Center for the Arts is proud to serve it up both ways. While the wildly popular one-woman show Late Nite Catechism continues its seemingly never-ending run in tiny Stage 2, Julie Taymor's The King Stag will take over the big auditorium across the hall.

The story is based on an ancient Oriental fable. Originally adapted by 18th-century dramatist Carlo Gozzi, it's a tale of young lovers, magical spells, an enchanted forest, the evil prime minister, monsters and a particularly happy ending. It all sounds like pretty conventional fairy tale stuff until you mix in the magic of Julie Taymor. For this production, she has created an entire universe of astonishing creatures. Her costumes, masks, bigger-than-life-size puppets and visual design have been called absolutely stunning.

The stage is filled with birds that somehow zoom across the stage, an entire animal kingdom filled with grace and delicacy, a beautiful-beyond-description dragon and an enormous bear hovering over the action. Yet these puppets are just one element of the show. The set features a massive spherical face that hangs over the proceedings, changing expression as the story unfolds. The actors wear striking masks based on Japanese theater tradition. And the musical score is from Oscar nominee Elliot Goldenthal (Interview With the Vampire, Batman Forever).

Julie Taymor recently became the first woman to win the Tony award as best director, for her work on The Lion King. She won a second Tony for that show as costume designer. Her feature film directorial debut was 1999's Titus starring Anthony Hopkins.